If the Berejiklian government fails to prevent sex-selection abortions, infanticide on demand or to guarantee the conscience rights of healthcare professionals it faces serious political consequences, numerous speakers warned a massive prolife rally in Hyde Park on Sunday.
Thousands gathered at the northern end of the iconic Sydney landmark on a near perfect Sunday afternoon to protest the passage of the legislation being debated by the NSW Legislative Council this week.
New England Nationals member Barnaby Joyce made it clear to the crowd of several thousand that any failure of the government to pass amendments viewed as essential by prolife organisers and activists would not be politically forgiven – either now or at election time.
‘We won’t forget’
“We’re not forgetting anything,” he told a boisterous and upbeat crowd. “We’ve got a very good memory,” he said, referring also to the 75,000 signature petition originally lodged by prolife forces with the NSW Parliament at rapid notice and the 23,000 signatures he had received on his website at the same time.
The message was clear. Facing an uphill battle to defeat the legislation authored by Sydney Independent MP Alex Greenwich, organisers of Sunday’s rally needed to demonstrate they could maintain the widespread community discomfort and opposition to the Berejiklian government’s handling of the issue by turning out at least the same or even greater numbers than the Martin Place rally of 20 August.
At that level they succeeded. Police told The Catholic Weekly they estimated the crowd at 3500 people but organisers said they were certain the numbers of Sunday’s protest were well up on the Martin Place event.
Mr Joyce was just one of numerous religious, political and civic leaders to address the large and boisterously upbeat rally, including Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, who said the so-called pro-choice legislation removed almost all choices from women and children.
Enthusiastic chants greeted former Prime Minister Tony Abbot who, among the political leaders participating in the rally, denounced the Greenwich legislation, saying that three aspects were fundamentally untrue.
“It is based on a lie. It is not about decriminalising abortion. Whether we like it or not abortion has been decriminalised in this state for almost 60 years,” he said.
The legislation’s real effect was that it would become a licence for sex selection abortions and effective infanticide on demand, he said.
“You don’t have to be a Catholic, you don’t have to be a Christian, you don’t have to be an evangelical, and you don’t have to believe in anything other than the basic decency of every human being to think that we should never have infanticide on demand.”
“You don’t have to be a Catholic, you don’t have to be a Christian, you don’t have to be an evangelical, and you don’t have to believe in anything other than the basic decency of every human being to think that we should never have infanticide on demand.
It’s bulldozing though the NSW Parliament had “been a fundamental failure of democratic process.” Authors tried to ram it through parliament in just a few days. Within a week Upper House inquiry had 14000 submissions.
Does anyone think that those 14000 submissions have had justice done to them in just one week, he asked the crowd.
By contrast a bill to end cruelty to battery hens had a seven week inquiry and received just 700 submissions.
“I’m all in favour of a good deal for battery hens but I think the babies of this country deserve better,” he said.
Harvard-trained bioethicist Dr Ana Wash urged politicians and protesters to protect the conscience rights of healthcare workers.
She said the current legislation represented “one step of a three-step plan” to destroy their rights of conscience.
Three-step plan to intimidate doctors
The first step is to force doctors to provide information on where to get an abortion even though the woman can get the information herself.
“Giving in to such a measure forces healthcare workers to lose some of their integrity and weakens their resistance,” she said.
“Step two is to force the doctor to give a referral. Participating in this forces healthcare workers to silently endorse the abortionist whom they must recommend, forcing them to wash their hands of their professional responsibility to do no harm.
The third step, she said, is to pressure doctors into performing abortions in ‘emergency’ cases.
However if abortion on demand is defined as healthcare, then in rural and remote areas the need to travel a significant distance for an abortion becomes an ‘emergency.’
She urged profilers to encourage healthcare professionals to stand up and campaign for their rights of conscience.
“They need more than a good heart. They need legal protection and education supported by good quality empirical research and our heartfelt appreciation that they exist, to give them the courage to stand for life.”
Longtime NSW Upper House MP, the Revernd Fred Nile, told the crowd the legislation was the worst he had ever seen.
“I’ve been in Parliament for 38 years. I’ve seen the good and the bad, the evil, the tricks and lies. But this is the worst bill I’ve seen in those 38 years,” he told the crowd.
Reverend Nile also denounced the timing of the push to legally remove any limits on abortion.
“It’s an ambush bill. Parliament was given only three days to debate it in the Legislative Assembly,” he said.
He had moved for a parliamentary inquiry into the legislation to report in 3-4 months but parliament was given only three days in which to report on the legisdlation.
“This is the evil we’re confronting in the parliament of NSW, both in the Assembly and in the Upper House,” he said.
Like numerous other religious, civic and political leaders at the protest, Rev Nile paid tribute to Tanya Davies and Kevin Connolly for being prepared to risk their political careers over the legislation.
Mr Connolly, the Member for Riverstone also addressed the rally and has written in this week’s Catholic Weekly of why he has stood for the unborn.
“I thank God for both Tanya Davies and Kevin Connolly, who have put their political careers on the line for the defence of human life and to stand for truth,” Rev Nile said, adding that already some NSW politicians had been threatened with the loss of their careers for opposing the legislation.
Mr Abbott also called for prolifers to get behind such politicians.
“My political life is over. I am a free man,” he said during his speech. “But there are some people who have taken enormous political risks to be here today. There are people who have put their promotion at risk. There are people who have put their ministerial positions at risk.
“And if there is something that is fundamentally lacking in our political life today it is character, courage and conviction.
“I hope every single one of you can do everything you possibly can to support members on both sides of parliament who really have put their political lives on the line to be here today. These are people of great integrity and our country is incredibly lucky to have them.”
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MLC Mark Banasiak said congratulated prolifers on the campaign they had mounted.
With their 15,000 or so submissions to the parliamentary inquiry into the Greenwich legislation, “you broke the system in parliament. It crashed,” he said.
He urged all present to continue their protest outside parliament this coming week as the upper house debated the bill.
- Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP: Pro-Choice equals No-Choice
- Kevin Connolly: defending life is more important than preselection